Autumn equinox 2019: When does the fall season start in the UK? What is the equinox?

Georgia Chambers, Tom Herbert
Autumn in the UK: Pixabay

We're sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it's now official - summer is sadly over for another year.

The crunch of leaves underfoot and shorter days mean autumn has well and truly arrived, with the changing weather seasons heralding the start of a new season.

For astronomers Monday, September 23 marks the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere for 2019, a season also known as fall in the US.

That's because today is the autumn equinox, when the sun crosses the Earth's equator from north to south. From now on, the days will become shorter and the temperature will drop as we welcome autumn into our lives.

As well as signalling the start of the new season, it also has a spiritual meaning for pagans as it's when day and night are most equal and the earth balanced.

So as head into the new season, here's all you need to know about the the 2019 autumn equinox.

Soon you'll be able to hear the crunch of leaves under foot (Pixabay)

What is the Autumn equinox?

An equinox is a phenomenon which only happens twice a year - once during spring and once again in the autumn.

It happens when the sun positions itself exactly above the equator between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

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For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumn equinox marks the beginning of autumn and for those in the southern it marks the beginning of spring.

Once the equinox hits in the autumn the nights become longer than the day, while the opposite happens after the spring equinox.

The term "equinox" stems from the Latin word "equi," meaning equal and "nox," meaning night.

When is the Autumn Equinox?

This year, the Autumn equinox took place on September 23 at 8.50am BST.

The autumn equinox always falls on one of three days towards the end of September.

The date varies because of the difference between how the Gregorian calendar calculates a year (365 days) and the time it takes for the Earth to complete its orbit around the sun, which is 365.25 days.

Because of the difference in the days, it means each September the equinox occurs around six hours earlier than the previous year.

How is the Autumn equinox celebrated?

People travel to the Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico to mark the Autumn Equinox (Filip Gielda/Unsplash)

People have been commemorating the Autumn equinox for centuries.

Ancient peoples such as the Druids in England and the Maya in Central America see it as a marker of the harvest season.

During the Autumn equinox, neo-druids gather at Stonehenge to perform rituals.

In Mexico, crowds flock to the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. A serpent-headed statue is placed at the foot of the pyramid and as the sun sets, the sunlight and the shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

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